High school students thriving, seeing success in AVID program

Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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During their May 4 meeting, the Winters Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees heard a presentation with information about the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program regarding its successes this school year and its goals for the 2023–24 school year.

Educator Jessica Williams, the AVID High School Coordinator, and Courtney Mognis, an AVID elective teacher collaborated to inform trustees about the program sharing the ethos behind “AVID’s Mission is to close the opportunity gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.” Williams added the program seeks to ensure students “have more opportunities ready for them at the end of high school.”

AVID recruits students in eighth and ninth grade and its teaching strategies focus on fives areas of Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading (WICOR), and measures the success of its program in its ability to improve the instruction, systems, leadership, and culture of the entire school. 

One of AVID’s program goals is to continue to get 70 percent of WHS teachers to use their WICOR system, including the use of focused notes and collaboration strategies, as well as recruiting tutors from college. 

Regarding enrollment, in the 2022–23 school year Williams reported 32 freshmen, 19 sophomores, 16 juniors, and 21 seniors in the program, and for the 2023–24 school year, 30 freshmen, 21 sophomores, 22 juniors, and 17 seniors. During this school year, 79 percent of seniors are A-G eligible, 84 percent have taken at least one AP course, and 79 percent have been accepted to a four-year university. 

Williams also summarized some of the efforts to improve the college- and career-going culture of WHS, which included visiting college campuses and encouraging events like college fairs and college T-shirt days.

For next year, Williams broke down AVID’s goals into its four areas of focus, instruction, systems, leadership and culture.

For instruction, Williams said the program will continue to focus on WICOR strategies and encourage staff to be trained in AVID practices, while for systems, they will work to refine the tutoring program and the site team. Regarding leadership, Williams says the program hopes to increase vertical and horizontal articulation between sites, and for culture, they hope to increase parent involvement and continue building on events and activities started this school year. 

Trustee Sterling Davis asked about the criteria behind recruitment and interviews for potential students, which Williams detailed as “one, you are (a) first generation to go to college, one is you are part of a historically underrepresented race or ethnicity, one is you are part of a historically disadvantaged socio-economic group, and then the fourth is special circumstances,” which she says is purposefully “undefined” and “can be any sort of circumstances where a student might need some extra support.”

Davis also asked what the experience of the AVID elective actually is, which Mognis elaborated for the freshman-sophomore class as “about helping students be successful in their content area classes” through note-taking and focus improved as well as tools to be an independent learner in a college and career setting, while Williams noted the junior-senior courses are more geared towards college “nitty-gritty” including research, applications, and readiness for college.

Trustee Joedy Michael inquired about what the “resistances” AVID faces in achieving their goal of 70 percent of teachers using WICOR strategies. Williams replied that there isn’t so much resistance so much as cultural shifts towards new practices that take effort for teachers to implement versus their already-in-use practices. 

Trustee Everado Zaragoza commended the AVID program, noting that he was a student in the WHS AVID program himself, specifically the high rate of passing A-G classes among AVID students, and asked what specifically the program was going to see that rate. Williams said that a large part of it likely is due to the emphasis AVID puts on passing A-G courses for college eligibility throughout the students’ high school career, as well as the broader support they receive to encourage that.

Trustee Kristin Trott asked if the switch to an eight-period day would allow AVID students more availability for electives, which Williams confirmed that the eight-period switch will be “a huge benefit, not just to AVID, but to all programs” and noted that there has been a loss of students from freshman to sophomore year because of the lack of electives.

Board President Carrie Green thanked Williams and Mognis for the presentation and commended AVID’s work. Superintendent Rody Boonchuoy expressed gratitude for the staff presenting programs to school district leadership and that, along with the Summer Bridge program presentation from earlier in the meeting, are “what’s needed in order to practice the college knowledge” for students and to enact a broader change in the school district’s culture and practices.

Next meeting
At the May 18 Winters JUSD school board meeting, trustees will conduct an equity recap study session at 5 p.m. in the Winters JSUD office board room. The regular business meeting will follow at 6 p.m.

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